Building our learning cultures: Putting the Teaching and Learning Strategy into practice

Yesterday was the 9th University of Huddersfield Teaching and Learning Conference, we had a serious number of colleagues booked to attend (about 175). Every year the Teaching and Learning Institute team, the staff development group and a steering group with representation from all the Schools in the University have the responsibility of developing this event where colleagues can network, share practice and learn about what is happening across the University.

2014 Teaching and Learning Conference

The day went really well and this was down to all the planning, checking and double-checking of sessions, rooms, food, booking and all those details that go into making a successful event.

Professor Tim Thornton opened the conference by talking about the many achievements in teaching and learning that we have seen this past academic year.


University of Huddersfield award winners 2014Then we heard from James Ritchie and Dawn Bagnall, two University of Huddersfield students, and they talked about the Student Teaching and Learning Consultant Scheme. This scheme has been running for the last two years and is all about promoting student and staff working together to develop student engagement, the learning experience and promote conversations about teaching and learning

Strategic Teaching and Learning Projects

Before lunch we heard from four ongoing strategic teaching and learning projects:

In the afternoon, delegates went to workshops or presentations of their choice.

Thank you to everyone who came and contributed to such a fantastic day!

posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

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An interview with Janet Hargreaves: The development of teaching and learning in higher education

By Nicole Natur and Sunnie Swinburn (Student Teaching and Learning Consultants)

This is a guest blog post written by two of the students working as Teaching and Learning Consultants here at the University of Huddersfield. As part of their training they were asked to interview one of our National Teaching Fellows.

A new scheme with students working as teaching and learning consultants was introduced in 2012 at The University of Huddersfield. As new consultants we wanted to gain an insight into education and how it has progressed through the years. Janet Hargreaves, Associate Dean of learning and teaching, was kind enough to answer some questions for us. We asked her some details about her career from nursing to teaching and then about the Student Teaching and Learning Consultant scheme (STLC).

Professor Janet Hargreaves, Associate Dean of learning and teaching at the School of Human and Health Sciences, has had a career starting with nursing and now teaches at the University of Huddersfield.



“You don’t have to be the cleverest person in the world and you don’t have to be the most charismatic person in the world but if you look at how you’re doing your teaching… and make it better, you can always improve as a teacher”.


From theatre sister to professor
Janet started her career as a theatre sister working in an operating theatre. Having never pursued University immediately after leaving school at 16, she completed her degree part-time with the Open University when she was 30. She did not consider teaching in particular until she began clinical teaching as a theatre nurse.

Janet did not initially plan to be a professor; she just enjoyed what she did. Over 10 years, she progressed straight from her degree to do her certificate in education and on completion, pursued an MA in health care ethics. She went on to do a doctoral qualification; this was the highest qualification anyone would have expected of her at the time. This was considered to be unusual and also a luxury to have this as it would not have been the norm to have a lot of nursing lecturers with doctorates.

Janet conducts a lot of academic activity outside of the routine of her job, which includes researching and publishing. She found she had all the criteria to become a professor and decided to apply. Janet has always wanted to do more for herself and the University and this is what inspires her. She explains that the University of Huddersfield was the right University for her as it gave her the right encouragement. She found that when completing her academic qualifications, she felt an objective perspective coupled with positive support from those around her contributed towards her journey to where she is today.

Moving towards more student involvement, feedback and student engagement
There have been some positive changes in teaching over the past 15 years. Students are encouraged to be much more involved as there is increased student feedback and engagement. Janet does not believe it is enough for a lecturer to just teach, but that teaching is part of a package that includes research and scholarship. Researching, reading and writing for publications are all evidence of further positive change within teaching.

Bridging the gap between students and teachers
When asked about her views on the STLC scheme, Janet expressed that it is a “really good scheme” that is able to bridge the ‘gap’ between students and teachers.  She described the scheme as a double-edged sword that allows students on the scheme with a unique role as peers of students, rather than the teachers to bridge this apparent gap.

The STLC scheme, in Janet’s opinion, would be good if it was regularly offered as part of what the teaching and learning institute does every year. However, some concerns about the scheme are that it may become something that is perceived as remedial, or part of appraisal or performance management. This would, in essence, take away from the potential for positive enhancement through the scheme.

There are a number of aspects that require particular attention when a student observes within a classroom setting. Janet noted a crucial aspect includes the environment, this being the physical space and what it is like to sit in the classroom. Furthermore, the structure of the teaching is also important. Interestingly, Janet pointed out that it is important to observe the students in order to fully understand how the teaching is received.

The STLC scheme at the University of Huddersfield has the potential to influence other universities as it increases its profile and becomes ‘good practice within the (education) sector’.

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Exploring ‘Networked Learning’

This is part two of my impressions and reflections on being a delegate at the -Networked Learning Conference taking place 7-9th April 2014 hosted by the University of Edinburgh.

I think it is fair to say that I was still a bit confused by Day 2 as to what ‘Networked learning’ was all about but then I had certainly not done all I could do to read up on the history of the field so it was rather self-inflicted confusion on my part. I only mention this because for me this question of what is ‘Networked Learning’ all about seemed to actually be a sort of characteristic of the conference in its current ninth incarnation. (Disclaimer: this is of course very much my interpretation). So from the next two days of conference I think my highlights were:

Prof Steve Fuller improvises and enlightens

Day 2: I found the keynote from Prof Steve Fuller thought-provoking – excellent notes on the content were made by Peter J Evans

I liked his call for academics to do intellectual thinking in public and the lecture as a place to perform this thinking in and enjoyed his argument for the University as an innovative organisation/organism in the tradition of Humboldt and the tradition of the Enlightenment where knowledge is not simply reproduced but where individuals learn to think for themselves and make informed judgements following Kant’s motto Sapere Aude (“Dare to know”).

But to me it seemed to be quite focused on a sort of ‘lone academic on stage’ and I don’t think this really foregrounds the importance of collaboration which is the reality I work in. Of academics and other colleagues in support roles working together in course teams designing, delivering, researching, supporting etc. And then of course there are the students and the spaces they need to perform in but maybe that is for another time.

Somewhat coincidentally, today Mark Carrigan wrote a really great post Improvisation in Academic Life about Prof Fuller and his call for improvisation  – I think Mark does a great job of saying why Prof Fuller’s idea of improvisation is significant. You should read it.

Great pecha kucha presentations
I was fascinated by the presentation How do we know who we are online? Reputation, identity and influence in scholarly networks which featured the ethnographic research by Bonnie Stewart from University of Prince Edward Island. An innovative approach involving the ‘reputational economies’ of academia and social networks in relation to networked scholarly practices. To be fair any paper that combines the ideas of Clifford Geertz and Donna Haraway gets my vote.

‘What’s wrong with ‘technology enhanced learning’ by Sian Bayne from University of Edinburgh in which much turned out to be wrong with the term technology, the idea of enhancement and the notion of learning. Using TEL as a shorthand masks the complexities of the relations between technology, education, individual and the world.

Teaching and learning gets weird

Really liked the presentation entitled: Becoming jelly: A call for gelatinous pedagogy within higher education by Søren Bengtsen and Rikke T. Nørgård from Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Aarhus University. Some great ideas (and an awful lot of philosophers thrown in) about the need to conceptualise and talk about learning in different ways without classic underlying narrative assumptions about linear progress and growth.

Collaboration, Connection, Cooperation and Community

Chris Jones from Liverpool John Moores provided me with a lot of background in relation to the concept of ‘Networked Learning’ as his presentation ‘The Politics of networked learning in an age of austerity‘ outlined some of the underpinning values and gave a really useful historical perspective.

Chris Jones called for networked learning to more explicitly deal with the broader political landscape which I think echoes points made in the keynote from the first day where Neil Selwyn called for more criticality.

I must mention that the #NLC2014 conference tweet stream was fantastic, so useful with great observations, thoughts and new people to connect with. Definitely a highlight.

I look forward to learning about the location of Networked Learning Conference 2016!

More info:

posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

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First day Networked Learning Conference 2014

View NLC2014

It is the first day of the ninth international conference on Networked Learning 2014 and I made it in time for the official welcome. There was a doctoral symposium earlier in the day that sounded excellent according to the twitter stream but alas I was on the train travelling the fours hours from Huddersfield to Edinburgh so not there in person. But from the terms being thrown around like ‘heutagogy’ and ‘trace ethnography’ and intriguingly PHD research on beer by Steve Wright (@stevewright1976).

There was a great (and funny) intro to Edinburgh & Scotland from Siân Bayne who also told us that we are at one of the oldest Universities founded in 1583.

Need for a critical approach to technology in education
Neil Selwyn, Monash University, Australia was the keynote speaker and his presentation was entitled: Networked learning in 2014 – why it is crucial to be critical.

One of the delegates, Nicola Osborne (@suchprettyeyes) live blogged his talk and the questions from the audience which you can find here:

I enjoyed Neil’s keynote specifically his insistence that there is a need to have a critical mindset or critical stance and to keep asking questions about how educational technology is embedded in political structures, power structures etc. and he gave the example of Audrey Watters, who writes about education (and technology), as someone who is an enjoyable ‘snarky’ voice that counteracts the tendency towards uncritical hype that surround some claims for how technology will revolutionise, transform and disrupt education. I find it very useful to read the Hack Education blog so I can understand what Neil was talking about. I think it would be fair to say that there was a mixed reception to the keynote but it certainly got everyone talking about what critical can mean though I am not sure there was much appetite for embracing pessimism as an outlook.

Take a look at Neil Selwyn’s research profile for more information:

I highly recommend Audrey Watters’ blog

Networked and multiple identities
I headed to the session with presentations by Jane Davis (@JaneDavis13), Catherine Cronin (@catherinecronin) and Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) who had sort of joined up their presentations. Jane Davis started us off with an activity (always a good idea to get people going) mapping our various roles at play whilst we were also students to illustrate the overlap, complexity and how one role can be more salient at one time etc. A very useful exercise in getting us thinking about the complexities of students lives. And I am always happy when I get to glue stuff.

Catherine Cronin focused on the interaction between teacher and students and talked about the benefits of online spaces as ‘third spaces’ that are both formal and informal where students can see teachers being learners etc. She also highlighted – from work by Danah Boyd – that the networked world has brought about a really significant shift from ‘private by default, public by effort’ to ‘public by default, private by effort’. I really like a quote she used from Danny Miller:
“As studies become more contextualised it seems that the real lesson of online identity is not that it transforms identity but that it makes us more aware that offline identity was already more multiple, culturally contingent and contextual than we had appreciated” (Danny Miller 2013).

For me this rings true in relation to so many things at times attributed to a shift to online or use of technologies when in fact it simply reveals preexisting assumptions that we have been taking for granted about for example face to face teaching practices
Check out Catherine Cronin’s slides at and the paper Networked learning and identity development in open online spaces

Joyce Seitzinger talked about curation and made the very interesting point that people are able to use curation tools to build online identity without a lot of self disclosure. Using Pinterest boards as example where focus is mainly on artefacts with minimal info about the person curating the board.

Very much enjoyed my first day at my first Networked Learning Conference and look forward to tomorrow’s many many sessions. All the papers are available from and you can follow us on #NLC2014.

Apologies for the rough notes and slightly rubbish linking, wordpress app not following orders (and it’s getting late) – I have since tidied up the links a bit (on 10th April)

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

photo by @kshjensen (view from my hotel window) CC BY-SA 3.0

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The student teaching and learning consultant scheme 2.0

Teaching and Learning Consultants - Get a student's-eye perspective on your teachingFollowing the pilot last year at the University of Huddersfield which was a Higher Education Academy funded project, I am excited that the scheme is carrying on and new students have been recruited. I have had some questions about how students are recruited and what sort of training they do so I thought I would attempt to outline in more detail how this part of the scheme is structured.

The student teaching and learning consultants are recruited via the Students’ Union. The students are recruited mainly from second or third year students and from students who have an interest in the teaching and learning and improving the student experience. They send in a written application against an outline of the job role focusing on skills in communication, working as part of a team and maintaining confidentiality. In the second year of the scheme, students were also asked to attend an interview before they were selected.

The selected students are required to attend two training sessions before they work with staff and then also ongoing meetings to share feedback and address any issues or training needs that may arise from the consultancy work.

The ethos of partnership and the principles of feedback

The first training session consists of an introduction to the scheme that stresses the ethos of partnership, objective feedback and the need for confidentiality. In an introductory ice breaker exercise we share best and worst teaching and learning experiences as a way to start identifying some characteristics and get some ideas about everyone’s background experiences.

We also present and discuss different approaches to teaching and learning as well as introduce Chickering & Gamson’s principles for good practice in undergraduate education. At this point we stress to the students that they are not going to be trained to be experts in pedagogy or teaching excellence but that it is about offering their unique perspectives as students based on their experiences as learners in higher education. Often there can be a mismatch between what academic staff understand to be happening in teaching and learning activities and interactions and students’ understanding.

Students role play being consultants and staff using some case studies developed by the Students Consulting on Teaching project at Lincoln University. Fake moustaches help a lot with getting students to loosen up and have fun with it. This is particularly effective in getting them to imagine how they would present themselves and the scheme. Students are also introduced to some principles about observation, the power of descriptive language in opening up conversation as opposed to feedback based on opinion or judgement. We introduce the students to some principles for giving feedback.

  • Descriptive
  • Specific
  • Useable
  • Timely
  • Constructive
  • Acceptable

We also explore the emotional aspects of feedback, how difficult it is to ask someone to look at your professional practice, the feeling of leaving yourself open to criticism even if it is constructive.

Developing dialogue

For the next training session, students are asked to prepare a prompt sheet to support them in their work and to start them thinking about what they need to cover in conversations with academic staff.

In the second training session the focus is on reinforcing that the feedback they offer is constructive and focused on opening up dialogue about teaching and learning rather than evaluation. To achieve this we try out a short exercise in speaking in front of an audience and getting feedback we ask everyone to prepare a 5 minute talk about a subject they are passionate about and then pick two out of a hat. The apprehension felt by all goes a long way to illustrate the need for empathy.

We also bring in a guest lecturer who does a mock lecture for the students to offer feedback on.

As this is the second year of the scheme we have made the most of the experiences of the first year student consultant. We incorporated their feedback into the first presentations and two of them also delivered some scenarios for the new students to discuss and offer what their approach would be to this. They called them ‘awkward scenarios’ as they illustrated grey areas of what they might be asked to do, such as a lecturer asking for a student consultant to observe a lecturer but then also asking the student consultant to take note of what students were on their phones or talking when they shouldn’t be and report back.

In the second year of the scheme we have added training in a third session on listening skills with a focus on open-ended questioning and how to avoid leading questions.

What is it a about the word ‘feedback’?

Following the first year of the scheme, we have been having ongoing discussions about the problems of using the word ‘feedback’ with staff. Feedback can be a term that students and lecturer dislike as it implies evaluation and possible judgment of some sort, which is of course not what the scheme promotes. The term ‘Feedforward’ has been suggested as a way to signpost that the scheme is about development, however, there was a feeling that this wording possibly suggested a focus on offering solutions, which can also be problematic as the aim is dialogue.

See also last year’s post ‘The Student Consultants are coming’ from Dec 2012 on the training the student consultants did for more details


Chickering, A. W., and Gamson, Z. F. (1987 ) ‘Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education’AAHE Bulletin,  39(7), 3–7.

Chickering, A. W. and Gamson, Z. F. (1999), ‘Development and Adaptations of the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education’, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1999: 75–81. doi: 10.1002/tl.8006

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

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Developing student achievement by promoting a culture of high expectation and bespoke interventions

Developing student achievement by promoting a culture of high expectation and bespoke interventions

The Teaching and Learning Institute is running a series of events to share the expertise, knowledge and reflections on practice of our National Teaching Fellows and University Teaching Fellows.

A photo of Jonathan Glazzard, University Teaching Fellow 2012

Jonathan Glazzard, University Teaching Fellow 2012

The first event was led by University Teaching Fellow Jonathan Glazzard from the School of Education and Professional Development. At this session Jonathan shared some of the strategies which resulted in all of the BA Primary Education Undergraduates achieving either a first or 2:1 classification in 2013. Jonathan explained how the students’ exceptional work had been confirmed in terms of quality and criticality by the external examiners.

A work integrated course design

It was fascinating to hear how the BA course had been radically redesigned to be a School-led model of teacher training, with ALL work placement activities informing the course. The teacher trainees benefitted by spending more time in school and their modules were partly delivered by school teachers both in school and at the university. All modules and assessments were adapted to relate directly to the work placement activities the students were doing in school; with a strong assessment focus being on exploring the application of theory to practice in relation to these activities. A wide range of inclusive assessment formats were used including presentation, role play, essay and group work.

Tracking students to support performance

Jonathan outlined how the teaching team had developed a system for tracking student performance in a number of areas in order to be able to intervene early on and offer a student the bespoke support they needed in order to move their achievements from, for example, a 2.2 to a 2.1 and from 2.1 to a first.

They developed careful tracking for monitoring performance in teaching and of assignment grades to determine the specific aspect of professional practice or academic performance that the student required support to improve.

Jonathan outlined the importance of:

  • Clear writing frames for assessment
  • Clear success criteria so students know what to do
  • Sharing student work, ‘what a good one looks like’, so they can see what they are aiming for
  • Listening to the students
  • Being accessible and supportive
  • Translating academic marking criteria – what does excellent critical analysis mean to a student? And what does it look like?
  • Getting students to engage with feedback by including reflections on how they addressed the feedback in subsequent assignments

This system was supplemented by lots of student engagement activities, such as monthly meetings with students, informal meetings to collect views and feedback. This was then followed up on and action taken. They also involved students, teachers in school and former students to develop a vision for ‘what is an outstanding course’. In this way students really had a say in shaping the course and the vision was owned by all involved.

A supportive culture of high expectations

Jonathan described the importance of a supportive culture which included being prepared to challenge underperformance but offer support to address areas for development. It was key to communicate high expectations that ‘satisfactory’ was not good enough and all students were aware that they needed to push themselves to achieve. This message ran through the course from pre-course info to students to posters with comments from external examiners and OFSTED reports, all of which celebrate the success of the course and students.

Jonathan also talked about the rigorous evaluation and improvement processes put in place, to ensure that students’ are supported to achieve the best possible results. There is an annual course improvement plan with termly actions, broken down into weekly action plans. This maintains a focus on constant development and evaluation which means the course is flexible, fluid and always up for revalidation.

As part of developing transparency with students and promoting an ethos of joint responsibility, students have access to all external examiners report and they are involved in OFSTED reporting. They see all the improvement and action plans. In this way they are partners in the learning process.

Developing supportive student-centered teaching and research

The seminar ended with a few comments on the – at times – competing agendas of supporting students and undertaking high level research. The requirements of OFSTED needing to be balanced against the University requirement whilst all the time taking into account the needs of the students. There was also discussion about the work and time involved in monitoring, tracking and offering interventions to enable students to improve in specific areas.

Sue Folley, Academic Development Advisor, commented that by using rubrics within GradeMark and setting up re-usable comments, it is possible to identify common and specific areas in within written assignments. Sue Folley has done some research into using rubrics with students. Using scoring rubrics is a way to break down the final grade and is useful when identifying specific areas that can be developed and for student to be able to see more clearly in which areas they are already achieving marks that would give them a first and where improvements could give them a better overall score. This method identified areas where interventions could be made to improve problem areas that affected a number of students. It also gave aspirations to students, clearly articulating where improvements could be made. Using scoring rubrics, although not applicable to all learning contexts also provide transparency for students in terms of detailing exactly how their final mark is made up, which students in the research really appreciated.

See Ellis, Cath and Folley, Susan (2009) The use of scoring rubrics to assist in the management of increased student assessment choice. In: ALT-C 2009, 8-10 September 2009, Manchester, UK.

Jonsson, A., & Svingby, G. (2007). The use of scoring rubrics: Reliability, validity and educational consequences. Educational Research Review, 2(2), 130-144

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Creativity in Educational Development

The 18th Annual Staff and Educational Development Association conference was held in Bristol, 14th-15th November 2013. The theme of the conference was Creativity in Educational Development and I was lucky enough to attend.

For a really useful detailed commentary of the keynote by Guy Klaxton and a collection of some of the tweets from the conference, see the storify created by Helen Webster, who is an Academic Developer at Anglia Learning and Teaching, Anglia Ruskin University (a.k.a. @scholastic_rat on twitter).

Playing seriously

I went to a really useful workshop called ‘Thinking in 3D: using the methodologies of constructionism and Lego Serious Play (LSP) for educational development’ run by Alison James who is Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, London College of Fashion (follow her on twitter @alisonrjames). We were giving a swift introduction to the principles of LSP and the four part process involved : question, build, share and reflect.

Using Lego to explore metaphors

Using Lego to explore metaphors

I enjoyed the focus on raising our awareness of metaphors we use in everyday language and linking this to creating Lego models that we then used to talk about a theme. In the photo I built a model of my role at the University which involves making connections, growing ideas, flying the flag for teaching and learning etc. The models are very effective as a way of articulating ideas and thinking and I would recommend trying it.

The session also reminded me of the importance of getting hands on and how much I agree with the theoretical premise of LSP – that you learn with your fingers & ‘activate’ brain/thinking this way.

Benefits of using diagrams to research digital literacies

I also enjoyed the workshop by Sarra Saffron Powell and Tünde Varga-Atkins (@tundeva on twitter) from University of Liverpool who presented findings from their SEDA funded research on digital literacies. For me the most useful part was the discussion of the method they used in semi-structured interviews to elicit perspectives and practices. Interviewees used stickers to map their practice and this visual task was a way to focus the discussion. See the report below for a full description of the method.

Powell, S. S.; Varga-Atkins, T. co-authors (2013) ‘Digital Literacies: A Study of Perspectives and Practices of Academic Staff’: a project report. Written for the SEDA Small Grants Scheme. Liverpool: University of Liverpool. July. Version 1.

This approach is similar to a mapping exercise employed by Dr Lesley Gourlay and Dr Martin Oliver in their research on digital literacies.

The other keynote was by Norman Jackson and was based on an enquiry into educational developers’ perspectives on creativity. You can find the summary and survey results on Norman Jackson’s website.

If you haven’t been to a SEDA conference, I would really recommend going, it is always a stimulating environment and I have made some great connections (and friends) at their events. Next conference is the Spring Conference in Newcastle, see the SEDA website for details.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

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